Communion on the Moon

26 12 2011

From Eric Metaxas’ blog.  Go pay him a visit here

Below is an excerpt from a wonderful little interview that Metaxas conducted with Buzz Aldrin.  Be sure to click through and read the whole thing:

“In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.  Apart from me you can do nothing.’  I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.  I agreed reluctantly.   …I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

And of course, it’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon — and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the “Love that moves the Sun and other stars.”

Read the rest here

Spurgeon: Comfort for “little faiths”

20 12 2011

By “Little-Faiths”, Spurgeon here means people who are not great in faith and deed.  There are no Moses, or Paul, or Peter, or Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin.  They aren’t even  ”Joe-Schmoe” Christians, but something less than that.  They are people whose faith is full of doubts, whose morality is often feeble.  They are not spiritual giants but spiritual midgets.  Here Spurgeon speaks a word of comfort to folks just like this, and shows that the blessings of Christ are every bit their’s as they are to the spritual giant.  Maybe these words will be a comfort to you.  I know it spoke a word of comfort to me…

Now I want to say one or two things to Little-Faiths this morning. The little children of God who are here mentioned as being bruised reeds or smoking flax are just as safe as the great saints of God. I wish for a moment to expand this thought, and then I will finish with the other head. These saints of God who are called bruised reeds and smoking flax are just as safe as those who are mighty for their Master, and great in strength, for several reasons. First of all, the little saint is just as much God’s elect as the great saint.When God chose his people, he chose them all at once, and altogether; and he elected one just as much as the other. If I choose a certain number of things, one may be less than the rest, but one is as much chosen as the other; and so Mrs. Fearing and Miss Despondency are just as much elected as Great-Heart, or Old Father Honest. Again: the little ones are redeemed equally with the great ones! the feeble saints cost Christ as much suffering as the strong ones; the tiniest child of God could not have been purchased with less than Jesus’ precious blood; and the greatest child of God did not cost him more. Paul did not cost any more than Benjamin—I am sure he did not—for I read in the Bible that “there is no difference.” Besides, when of old they came to pay their redemption-money, every person brought a shekel. The poor shall bring no less, and the rich shall bring no more than just a shekel. The same price was paid for the one as the other. Now then little child of God, take that thought to thy soul. You see some men very prominent in Christ’s cause—and it is very good that they should be—but they did not cost Jesus a farthing more than you did; he paid the same price for you that he paid for them. Recollect again, you are just as much a child of God as the greatest saint. Some of you have five or six children. There is one child of yours, perhaps, who is very tall and handsome, and has, moreover, gifts of mind; and you have another child who is the smallest of the family, perhaps has but little intellect and understanding. But which is the most your child? “The most!” you say; “both alike are my children, certainly, one as much as the other.” And so, dear friends, you may have very little learning, you may be very dark about divine things, you may but “see men as trees walking,” but you are as much the children of God as those who have grown to the stature of men in Christ Jesus. Then remember, poor tried saint, that you are just as much justified as any other child of God. I know that I am completely justified.

His blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress.

I want no other garments, save Jesus’ doings, and his imputed righteousness.

The boldest child of God wants no more; and I who am “less than the least of all saints,” can be content with no less, and I shall have no less. O Ready-to-Halt, thou art as much justified as Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, or the loftiest saint in heaven. There is no difference in that matter. Oh! take courage and rejoice.

Then one thing more. If you were lost, God’s honor would be as much tarnished as if the greatest one were lost. A queer thing I once read in an old book about God’s children and people being a part of Christ and in union with him. The writer says—”A father sitteth in his room, and there cometh in a stranger; the stranger taketh up a child on his knee, and the child hath a sore finger; so he saith, ‘My child, you have a sore finger;’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Well, let me take it off, and give thee a golden one!’ The child looketh at him and saith, ‘I will not go to that man any more, for he talks of taking off my finger; I love my own finger, and I will not have a golden one instead of it.’” So the saint saith, “I am one of the members of Christ, but I am like a sore finger, and he will take me off and put a golden one on.” “No,” said Christ, “no, no; I cannot have any of my members taken away; if the finger be a sore one, I will bind it up; I will strengthen it.” Christ cannot allow a word about cutting his members off. If Christ lose one of his people, he would not be a whole Christ any longer. If the meanest of his children could be cast away, Christ would lack a part of his fullness; yea, Christ would be incomplete without his Church. If one of his children must be lost, it would be better that it should be a great one, than a little one. If a little one were lost, Satan would say, “Ah! you save the great ones, because they had strength and could help themselves; but the little one that has no strength, you could not save him.” You know what Satan would say; but God would shut Satan’s mouth, by proclaiming, “They are all here, Satan, in spite of thy malice, they are all here; every one is safe; now lie down in thy den for ever, and be bound eternally in chains, and smoke in fire!” So shall he suffer eternal torment, but not one child of God ever shall.

One thought more and I shall have done with this head. The salvation of great saints often depends upon the salvation of little ones. Do you understand that? You know that my salvation, or the salvation of any child of God, looking at second causes, very much depends upon the conversion of some one else. Suppose your mother is the means of your conversion, you would, speaking after the manner of men, say, that your conversion depended upon hers; for her being converted, made her the instrument of bringing you in. Suppose such-and-such a minister to be the means of your calling; then your conversion, in some sense, though not absolutely, depends upon his. So it often happens, that the salvation of God’s mightiest servants depends upon the conversion of little ones. There is a poor mother; no one ever knows anything about her; she goes to the house of God, her name is not in the newspapers, or anywhere else; she teaches her child, and brings him up in the fear of God; she prays for that boy; she wrestles with God, and her tears and prayers mingle together. The boy grows up. What is he? A missionary—a William Knibb—a Moffat—a Williams. But you do not hear anything about the mother. Ah! but if the mother had not been saved, where would the boy have been? Let this cheer the little ones; and may you rejoice that he will nourish and cherish you, though you are like bruised reeds and smoking flax.

read the whole thing here

Calvin: Enter boldly into God’s presence by the blood of Christ

20 12 2011

Below is Calvin’s exposition of Hebrews 10.19.  I’ve italicized what I think is one of the most profound thoughts on the passage that I’ve come across

He says first, that we have “boldness to enter into the holiest”.
This privilege was never granted to the fathers under the Law, for the
people were forbidden to enter the visible sanctuary, though the high
priest bore the names of the tribes on his shoulders, and twelve stones
as a memorial of them on his breast. But now the case is very different,
for not only symbolically, but in reality an entrance into heaven is made
open to us through the favour of Christ, for he has made us a royal

He adds, “by the blood of Jesus”, because the door of the sanctuary
was not opened for the periodical entrance of the high priest, except
through the intervention of blood. But he afterwards marks the difference between this blood and that of beasts; for the blood of beasts, as it soon turns to corruption, could not long retain its efficacy; but the blood of Christ, which is subject to no corruption, but flows ever as a pure stream, is sufficient for us even to the end of the world. It is no wonder that beasts slain in sacrifice had no power to quicken, as they were dead; but Christ who arose from the dead to bestow life on us, communicates his own life to us. It is a perpetual consecration of the way, because the blood of Christ is always in a manner distilling before the presence of the Father, in order to irrigate heaven and earth.

Calvin’s Commentary on Hebrews 10. 19

Spurgeon: The Resurrection of the Dead

20 12 2011

Usually after reading a Spurgeon sermon I’m ready to go out and conquer the world.  Not this time.  The sermon is not Spurgeon at his most inspiring, buthe does preach a very earth resurrection that I think is important for us to hear.  Even though we are a rabidly materialistic age, many think of the resurrection of the dead as a purely spiritual event.  Yet the Biblical doctrine and the Christian confession is that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of the body.This has profound implications both for this life and the next, which Spurgeon draws out quite well.  Enjoy.

There are very few Christians who believe the resurrection of the dead. You may be surprised to hear that, but I should not wonder if I discovered that you yourself have doubts on the subject. By the resurrection of the dead is meant something very different from the immortality of the soul: that, every Christian believes, and therein is only on a level with the heathen, who believes it too. The light of nature is sufficient to tell us that the soul is immortal, so that the infidel who doubts it is a worse fool even than a heathen, for he, before Revelation was given, had discovered it—there are some faint glimmerings in men of reason which teach that the soul is something so wonderful that it must endure forever. But the resurrection of the dead is quite another doctrine, dealing not with the soul, but with the body. The doctrine is that this actual body in which I now exist is to live with my soul; that not only is the “vital spark of heavenly flame” to burn in heaven, but the very censer in which the incense of my life doth smoke is holy unto the Lord, and is to be preserved for ever. The spirit, every one confesses, is eternal; but how many there are who deny that the bodies of men will actually start up from their graves at the great day? Many of you believe you will have a body in heaven, but you think it will be an airy fantastic body, instead of believing that it will be a body like to this—flesh and blood (although not the same kind of flesh, for all flesh is not the same flesh), a solid, substantial body, even such as we have here. And there are yet fewer of you who believe that the wicked will have bodies in hell; for it is gaining ground everywhere that there are to be no positive torments for the damned in hell to affect their bodies, but that it is to be metaphorical fire, metaphorical brimstone, metaphorical chains, metaphorical torture. But if ye were Christians as ye profess to be, ye would believe that every mortal man who ever existed shall not only live by the immortality of his soul, but his bodyshall live again, that the very flesh in which he now walks the earth is as eternal as the soul, and shall exist for ever. That is the peculiar doctrine of Christianity. The heathens never guessed or imagined such a thing; and consequently when Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, “Some mocked,” which proves that they understood him to speak of the resurrection of the body, for they would not have mocked had he only spoken of the immortality of the soul, that having been already proclaimed by Plato and Socrates, and received with reverence.

We are now about to preach that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. We shall consider first the resurrection of the just; and secondly, the resurrection of the unjust.

read the whole thing here

Schaeffer: Defending the faith for your children’s sake

20 12 2011

The following is an excerpt from Frances Schaeffer’s The God Who is There, found in Vol. I of his complete works.  In the first paragraph, I feel a particular heartache that resonants with many parents in our congregation.  I hope Schaeffer’s words give you some instruction, but also I hope prompts some new questions.  For me the value in Schaeffer’s words are that the Gospel must be communicated to your children in such a way as makes sense in their current cultural framework.  This means parents must learn their children in the same way a missionary must learn the culture he has been sent to and for the same purpose. We will be visiting issues such as this with greater frequency over the coming months…

I find that everywhere I go– both in the United States and in other countries– children of Christians are being lost to historic Christianity.  This is happening not only in small groups in small geographical areas, but everyhwere.  They are being lost because their parents are unable to understand their children, and therefore cannot really help them in their time of need.  This lack of understanding is not only on the part of individual parents, bu toften also of churches, Christian colleges and Christian missions.  Some Christian colleges (and I am not talking of ‘liberal’ colleges) lose many of the best students before they graduate.  We have left the next generation naked in the twentieth century thought by which they are surrounded.

So then, the defense for myself and for those for whom I am responsible, must be a conscious defense.  We cannot assume that because we are Christians in the full biblical sense, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, automatically we shall be free from the influence of what surrouns us.  The Holy Spirit can do what He will, but the Bible does not separate His work from knowledge; nor does the work of the Holy Spirit remove our responsibility as parents, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, or teachers.

Having said that, however, Christian apologetics should never be restircted to guarding against attack.  We have a responsibility to communicate the gospel to our generation.

Christian apologetics is not like living in a castle with the drawbridge up and occasionally tossing a stone over the walls.  It is not to be based on a citadel mentality– sitting inside and saying “You cannot reach me in here.”  If the Christian adopts this attitude, either in theory or in practice, his contacts with those who have accepted twentieth-centrury thought will stop.  Apologetics should not be merely an academic subject, a new kind of scholasticism.  It should be thought out and practiced in the rough and tumble of living contact with the present generation.  Thus, the Christian should not be interested in presenting a nicely balanced system on its own, like some Greek metaphysical systme, but rather in something which has constant contact with reality– the reality of the questions being asked by his own and the next generation.

No one can become a Christian unless he understands what Christianity is saying.  Many pastors, missionaries, and Christian teachers seem to be helpless as they try to speak to the educated people and the mass of people about them.  The do not seem to face the fact that it is our task to speak to our generation; the past has gone, the future is not yet here.  So the positive side of apologetics is the communication of the gospel to the present generations in terms they can understand.

From The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Vol I pg pg 152-153

Horatious Bonar: The Love of God and the Law of God

20 12 2011

Favor to the sinner must also be favor to the law. Favor to the sinner which would simply establish law, or leave its sanctities untouched, would be much; but favor to him which would deepen its foundations, and render it more venerable, more awful than before, is unspeakably higher and surer. Even so has it been. Law has not suffered at the hands of love, nor love been cramped and frozen by law. Both have had full scope, fuller scope than if man had never fallen.

I know that love is not law, and that law is not love. In law, properly, no love inheres. It is like the balance which knows not whether it be gold or iron that is laid upon it. Yet in that combination of the judicial and the paternal, which God’s way of salvation exhibits, law has become the source and vehicle of love, and love law’s upholder and honourer; so that even in this sense and aspect “love is the fulfilling of the law.”(2)

The law that was against the sinner has come to be upon the sinner’s side. It is now ready to take his part in the great controversy between him and God, provided he will conduct his case on the new principles which God has introduced for the settlement of all variances between Himself and the sinner; or rather, provided he will put that case into the hands of the divine Advocate, who alone knows how to conduct it aright, and to bring it to a successful issue, who is both “propitiation” and ”Advocate,” the “propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), “the Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness, (Banner of Truth Trust: pg 12-13)

Charles Spurgeon: What is it to believe the Gospel?

20 12 2011

The final paragraph of Spurgeon’s excellent sermon “The Curse Removed.” Read the whole thing here.

To believe is to fall flat down upon the promise, and there to lie. To believe is as a man would do in a stream. It is said, that if we were to fold our arms, and lie motionless, we could not sink. To believe is to float upon the stream of grace. I grant you, you shall do afterward; but you must live before you can do. The gospel is the reverse of the law. The law says, “Do and live;” the gospel says, “Live first, then do.” The way to do, poor sinner, is to say, “Here, Jesus, here I am; I give myself to thee.” I never had a better idea of believing than I once had from a poor countryman. I may have mentioned this before; but it struck me very forcibly at the time, and I can not help repeating it. Speaking about faith he said, “The old enemy has been troubling me very much lately; but I told him that he must not say any thing to me about my sins, he must go to my Master, for I had transferred the whole concern to him, bad debts and all.” That is believing. Believing is giving up all we have to Christ, and taking all Christ has to ourselves. It is changing houses with Christ, changing clothes with Christ, changing our unrighteousness for his righteousness, changing our sins for his merits. Execute the transfer, sinner; rather, may God’s grace execute it, and give thee faith in it; and then the law will be no longer thy condemnation, but it shall acquit thee. May Christ add his blessing! May the Holy Spirit rest upon us! And may we meet at last in heaven! Then will we “sing to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.

Rob Sturdy: Why do we believe what we believe?

20 12 2011

This was originally prepared for a new believers class

Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton write in their book SoulSearching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers that teens who self identify as Christians could be profoundly articulate about drinking, drugs, and sexually transmitted diseases, but had a difficult if not outright impossible time discussing what they believed and why. They argue:

“Philosophers like Charles Taylor argue that inarticulacy undermines the possibilities of reality. So, for instance, religious faith, practice, and commitment can be no more than vaguely real when people cannot talk much about them. Articulacy fosters reality. A major challenge for religious educators of youth, therefore, seems to be fostering articulation: helping teens practice talking about their faith, providing practice using vocabularies, grammar, stories, and key messages of faith. Especially to the extent that the language of faith in American culture is becoming a foreign language, educators, like real foreign language teachers, have that much more to work at helping their students learn to practice speaking that other language of faith.”

The simple lesson here is that if you are unable to articulate the faith for yourself, then you haven’t really learned the faith in such a way that you can own it.  You may wonder why it is that we begin a confirmation class here, discussing why we believe what we believe.  I hope it has become a bit more clear.  If you cannot articulate the faith then you have not really apprehended the faith.  If you have not apprehended the faith then the faith is not truly yours.

This wisdom is reflected not only in modern research as shown above, but it is an ancient wisdom found in the Old and New Testaments.  For example, in the Old Testament the ancient Jews were required not only to have faith in God but every member of Ancient Israel was required to be able to articulate who He was and what He had done for His people.  This is illustrated most vividly in the Passover service recorded Exodus 12.26-27.  Similarly in 1 Pet 3.15 we read “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  This is not merely an evangelistic strategy, or a mechanism for handing the faith down to our children, but it is also a way inspired by the Holy Spirit for us to own our faith.  Once we articulate it, it is ours.

So we begin with a simple articulation of why we believe what we believe.  Each of us will articulate this in some form this evening to the people we are sitting with in order to make it our own.

If someone were to approach you this evening and ask you, “Why is it that you are a Christian as opposed to a Muslim, Jew or agnostic?” What would you say to them?  Would you make an appeal to the Bible?  But then they might ask, “Why do you believe the Bible?”  Would you say that you were raised a Christian?  Well, they might simply say that a Jew is raised a Jew.  Perhaps you would argue that you had a spiritual experience that led you to believe in Christ.  But how would you articulate that in terms that weren’t abstract but reasonable and concrete?  Tonight we will explore these things and many others.

Why are we Christians and not Buddhists, Jews, Hindus or Muslims?

There are many different people in the world, just as smart if not smarter than you.  There are many different people in the world just as moral, if not more so than you.  There are many different people in the world just as spiritual, if not more so than you.  So why are you a Christian?  And if you are a Christian who are you to say that you have the truth and someone else does not?  Surely we live in a very big and confusing world and God is a very big and confusing topic.  Who are we as Christians to say we’ve got the market cornered on God and the truth about him?

Christianity shares many things in common with the other major religions of the world.  And of course there is a sharp separation on many points.  However if you wanted to find the main point of departure between Christianity and the other world religions it would have to be Jesus. Huston Smith notes, in the world religions only two people ever astounded their contemporaries so much that the question evoked was not “Who is he?” but “What is he?”  They were Jesus and Buddha.  The answers these two gave were exactly opposite.  Buddha said unequivocally that he was a mere man, not a god- almost as if he foresaw later attempts to worship him.  Jesus on the other hand, claimed to be divine.

The problem with Jesus’ identity emerges from the data.  For example:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8.56-59)

“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2.1-12)

So the main point of departure between Christianity and the other world religions is that Jesus claimed to be more than a man.  In fact, Jesus claimed to be God.  He did not claim to be God in such a way that he left open the possibility that others might be God as well.  In fact, He claimed that he and he alone was God.  He claimed that it was only through him that you could know real truth.  He claimed that only through him could you receive salvation.  Only through him could you know the father.

Now Jesus is neither the first or the last person to make such statements.  In fact, many people even today make such statements.  Most of the time we commit them to mental institutions.  Why?  Because we don’t believe them.  Why don’t we believe them?  Because they have not given us adequate reason to believe them.

We should be thankful that Jesus depicts himself and who he thought himself to be in such clear terms because it forces us to make a clear choice.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

So what did Jesus say about himself?

Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins:  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2.5)

Lewis demonstrates well why Jesus’ claims to forgive sins are so remarkable.  He writes:

“We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself.  You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you.  But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?  Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct.  Yet this is what Jesus did.  He told people that their sins were forgiven and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured.  He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences.  This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in ever sin.  In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.”[1]

Jesus claimed that he would one day judge the world:  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matt 25.31-32)

Jesus claimed to be God’s Christ/ Messiah:  “But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.” (Mark 14.61-64)

Jesus claimed to be God:  “The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10.33)

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.26-29)Notice at Thomas’ confession of Jesus as God, Jesus does not rebuke Thomas but rather affirms Thomas’ conclusion. 

Now that we’ve established some of what Jesus had to say about himself, we then go on to say why it is that it is reasonable to believe him.  While there are many persuasive elements as to why it is reasonable to believe Jesus, we will spend time on only one.  Perhaps the most persuasive is the event of the resurrection.

Consider this episode from Luke’s Gospel:

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24.13-21)

What is remarkable about this excerpt from Luke’s Gospel is that it takes the doubts and disbelief of the disciples so seriously.  Read it closely.  The disciples respond “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”  In other words, they were convinced by his teaching, by his miracles, and by his character, however his death on the cross persuaded them that he could possibly be the Messiah.  It was inconceivable that God would allow his Messiah to die on a cross.

Consider also this episode from John’s Gospel:

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20.24-25)

Again, the point being that Thomas had ceased to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and certainly was not going to believe that he (Jesus) had come back from the dead.  Thomas is an “un-believer”.

Consider the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letter to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9.1-2)

Whether we are considering the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Thomas in John’s Gospel, or Paul (Saul) in the book of Acts, the unifying theme is that none of them believed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.  Yet all of them had a change of heart.  What provoked this change of heart?  In each and every instance it was a personal encounter with the risen Jesus.  Furthermore, it is important to note that in each instance, the men who did not believe would later be martyred for their confession that Jesus was the risen Lord.  What provoked this change of heart?  Is it not reasonable that the risen Lord did this?  So you see our hope is not grounded upon “a blind leap.”  There are more ways to develop and challenge these thoughts, but this is a good introduction into why we believe what we believe.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan 1977) pg 55

Rob Sturdy: What is the Bible?

20 12 2011

This was originally prepared for our new believers class

The great Baptist preacher from England, Charles Spurgeon, once remarked:

 “I was thoughtless like others; I laughed religion to scorn, and those who attended to it; my language was, Let us eat, drink and enjoy the sunshine of life, but now through Christ Jesus I find the Bible a honeycomb, which hardly needs to be pressed to let the drops of honey run out; it is so sweet and precious to my taste that I wish I could sit down and feast on my Bible forever.”[1]

Our topic is what is the Bible, and to that end Spurgeon’s quote helps us significantly as we seek to understand more fully what it is.  To put it quit simply, it is a feast for the soul, it is food that endures and satisfies.But in order to be truly helpful we need to pull the Bible out of the abstraction of Spurgeon, no matter how beautiful and speak more concretely as to what the Bible is.  So first we must pick up our Bible!  The Bible you have in your hands is an English translation of two primary languages, Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament.  If you open your Bible to the Table of Contents you will notice that the Bible is broken up into two major sections.  These sections are the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament.  And though your Table of Contents will not make these divisions, you can further divide both Testaments further if you wish.  Perhaps you might want to take a pen or highlighter and make these divisions yourself.

The Old Testament

The Pentateuch, The Torah, The Books of Moses






The Books of History




1 & 2 Samuel

1 & 2 Kings

1 & 2 Chronicles




Wisdom Literature





Song of Solomon

The Major Prophets






The Minor Prophets













The New Testament

They Synoptic Gospels




John’s Gospel


Paul’s Letters to the Churches


1 & 2 Corinthians





1 & 2 Thessalonians

Paul’s Letters to Individuals

1 & 2 Timothy




The Catholic Epistles

1 & 2 Peter

1, 2, 3, John




The above list does, in a bare bones way answer the question “what is the Bible?” However, we as Christians would like to say that the Bible is more than this.  As Anglicans, we agree that at the bare minimum the Bible “contains all things necessary for salvation” and “whatever is not read in the Bible or can be proven by the Bible is not required to be believed by any man” (Article VI).  What does this mean?  It means as Anglicans we believe that God has revealed enough of His truth within the pages of the Bible to lead a man or woman to saving knowledge of God.  Furthermore, as Anglicans we believe that the Church is not free to lay requirements (whether beliefs, morality, or actions) upon individuals that cannot be explicitly or implicitly proven by Scripture.  The presupposition behind these assertions is that God has spoken authoritatively in the pages of Scripture on salvation, faith, history, morality, and life.  This is not all that one can say about Scripture.  In fact the clergy of this church believe far more about Scripture than this.  But we believe this is a good starting point.

One thing we must say before we go further is our commitment to the Scriptures as ademocratizing force in the congregation.  By this we mean everyone has a Bible, everyone can read along with us in the Bible as we preach, and each and everyone person who reads along is free to confirm our interpretation or challenge it.  The pastors of a church are set apart to preach the word, but they are not above the word.  Their actions must be consistent with the word.  Therefore, this doctrine of scripturekeeps pastors from becoming dictators by holding them accountable to God by his word and the collective interpretation of the church (past and present). 

These are some large truths that the Anglicans are making about Scripture.  How are they justified?  To go back to our theme for this confirmation course, “what is the reason for the hope you have in…” to believe in the authority of the Bible?

Four Reasonable Arguments for the Authority of the Bible:

  • Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus treated the Old Testament as authoritative.  Therefore the Old Testament is an authoritative word of God.  What about the New Testament?  The Apostles were charged to “teach everything that Jesus taught them”.  They claim to have done so.  Their teachings are consistent with the meaning of the Old Testament as explained by Jesus.
  • Internal Consistency: Within the 15,000 manuscripts we have of the Old and New Testaments the level of contradiction within them is slender and inconsequential (number of angels at the tomb for instance).  As opposed to the level of variation within Aristotle which is literally in the thousands, and on major philosophical points.  Consider the mann in which we received Aristotle.  For example, Felix Grayeff’s article “The Problem of the Genesis of Aristotle’s Text” published inPhronesisA Journal for Ancient Philosophy outlines the process by which we have received Aristotle’s works.  Aristotle died, his library (including his writings) go to Theoprhastus who bequeathed them to Neleus who took them to his native Corsica.  Neleus’ relatives in inherited Aristotle and greatly neglected the books and journals.  They were hidden for a time to escape the King of Pergamon and were buried under ground where the suffered irreparable damage due to moth and moisture.  150 years later the only surviving copies, greatly damaged, were gathered and edited by Tyrannion who wrote the missing paragraphs himself.  Desiring to publish the works, he contracted the copying work out to copyists, who were recognized even by Tyrannion to be inferior and their job.  Finally these works were given to booksellers who edited them once again producing myriad faulty editions.  All this to say one simple point.  You will, without thinking, pick up Aristotle and believe you are reading Aristotle, but you have far better reason to trust the manuscript of the Bible than you do Aristotle on those grounds.  This leads Purtil, in his book Thinking About Religion to write:

“If the biblical narratives did not contain accounts of miraculous events…biblical history would probably be regarded as much more firmly established than most of the history of say, classical Greece and Rome.”

  • Well preserved manuscripts:  “It is indeed a great relief against the inconvenience of corrupt translations, to consider that although some of them be bad enough, yet, if all the errors and mistakes that are to be found in all the rest should be added to the worst of all, every necessary, saving, fundamental truth, would be found sufficiently testified therein.”[2]  The manuscripts are remarkably well preserved, however there are some variants and inconsistencies.  What shall we say about these things?  Do the variants and the inconsistencies actually change the narrative?  In other words, if we removed those instances with variants and inconsistencies would we lose the story that God became flesh, lived as Jesus of Nazareth, died on a cross and rose again three days later?  This story stays intact.

One Persuasive Argument for the authority of the Bible

We live in an age of rationalism, which is something quite different than simply being rational.  Rationalism for the purposes of this discussion, believes that human beings come to knowledge strictly through intellectual and deductive reasoning in a closed system, that is without the aid of divine assistance.  In our time, this has manifested itself with an overdependence upon logic and what can be proven by the scientific method.  This method works quite well when we want to understand cellular biology, analytical physics, or geometry.  However, rationalism does not do us much good when we want to discuss the deeper experiences of being human.  By this we mean concepts such as justice, love, mercy, compassion, anger, the desire for purpose, the concept of the divine.  To this we must look for something beyond rationalism, because at this very point where we need something most rationalism fails to account for the deep needs of our humanity.  This of course does not prove that the Bible is the book to meet those deep needs, nevertheless the Bible acknowledges those deep needs and provides answers.  It is now up to you to see if the answers it provides are persuasive.  But in order to that, you must pick it up and read it!

If the Bible is authoritative, what does it say? 

The Bible says a lot!  And the best way to determine what it says is to jump right in and learn it for yourself.  Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the Bible and not certain how to read it.  For one, the Bible ought to be read as a whole.  One must not pick up Paul’s letter to the Romans and let that letter stand on its own.  Rather, the Romans should be placed within the larger framework of the unified story that the Bible is telling.  The essential story of the Bible is about God, his creation, its fall and subsequent redemption through act of Jesus, and final restoration.  The Bible has many different ways of expressing that story, with themes such as substitution, forgiveness, restoration, release, healing, and many others.  We will pick one theme that is demonstrated well throughout the whole Bible so that we might become familiar with reading the Bible as a unified whole.  I have chosen the theme of Ransom.  Ransom is a good theme for our purposes because it literally runs from the first book of the Bible to the very last.  Below are texts that we will read together.  See if you can piece the story together for yourself with the scripture listed below.

Salvation History (for the perspective of the theme of Ransom):

Gen 1.27

Gen 3.1-20

Gen 5.3

Gen 15

Exodus 6.6

Leviticus 25.25

Ruth ch. 3

Job 33.24

Isa 53

Psalm 22

Hos 13.14

Zech 12.10

Mark 10.45

1 Peter 1.18

Rev 5.9

[1] Spurgeon, “Confirming the Witness of Christ”  vol II pg 226


[2] John Owen, Of the Divine Original of the Scriptures, Owen’s Works vol 16

John Owen: Grace, a necessary preparation for glory

20 12 2011

I had a decent introduction to Owen last year, reading three of his major works.  So I decided two weeks ago to go ahead and order his complete works, which arrived in the mail last week.  So far I have read three books from this set: On the Divine Original of the Scriptures (Vol XVI); Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Vol II); and Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (Vol I).  I will be using his commentary on Hebrews to finish out our Hebrews Bible study, so I’m looking forward to that as well.  Many say that Owen is difficult to read, I find him easier the farther along I get in him.  Let me simply say, he is worth the time.  Take the time to digest the quote below, and see if you can really understand the root of what the man is saying.  In a nutshell, the believer hopes to be with Christ in heaven because the believer has had  an experience of the glory of Christ, by faith, in this life on earth.  Those who have not had an experience of the glory of Christ on this earth, have no content for their hope for heaven.  Tease that out a bit and see where you land.  Enjoy!

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight   hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, – only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but
self-deceiving imaginations.

So do the Papists delude themselves. Their carnal affections are excited by their outward senses to delight in images of Christ, – in his sufferings, his resurrection, and glory above. Hereon they satisfy themselves that they behold the glory of Christ himself and that with love and great delight. But whereas there is not the least true representation made of the Lord Christ or his glory in these things, – that being confined absolutely unto the gospel alone, and this way of attempting it being laid under a severe interdict, – they do but sport themselves with their own deceivings.

The apostle tells us concerning himself and other believers, when the Lord Christ was present and conversed with them in the days of his flesh, that they “saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1: 14. And we may inquire, what was this glory of Christ which they so saw, and by what means they obtained a prospect of it. For, – l. It was not the glory of his outward condition, as we behold the glory and grandeur of the kings and potentates of the earth; for he made himself of no reputation, but being in the form of a servant, he walked in the condition of a man of low degree. The secular grandeur of his pretended Vicar makes no representation of that glory of his which his disciples saw. He kept no court, nor house of entertainment, nor (though he made all things) had of his own where to lay his head. Nor, – 2. Was it with respect to the outward form of the flesh which he was made, wherein he took our nature on him, as we see the glory of a comely or beautiful person; – for he had therein neither form nor comeliness that he should be desired, “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” Isa. 52: 14; 53: 2, 3. All things appeared in him as became “a man of sorrows.” Nor, – 3. Was it absolutely the eternal essential glory of his divine nature that is intended; for this no man can see in this world. What we shall attain in a view thereof
hereafter we know not. But, – 4. It was his glory, as he was “full of grace and truth.” They saw the glory of his person and his office in the administration of grace and truth. And how or by what means did they see this glory of Christ? It was by faith, and no otherwise; for this privilege was granted unto them only who ”received him,” and believed on his name, John 1: 12. This was that glory which the Baptist saw, when, upon his coming unto him he said unto all that were presents “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” verses 29-33.

Wherefore let no man deceive himself; he that has no sight of the
glory of Christ here, shall never have any of it hereafter unto his
advantage. It is not, therefore, unto edification to discourse of
beholding the glory of Christ in heaven by vision, until we go
through a trial whether we see anything of it in this world by faith
or no.

John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Owen’s Works vol I pg 288-289)